Tonight the Men’s Heels took on the University of Maryland Baltimore County Retrievers in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The game was the first NCAA game for the Tar Heels, who by virtue of their high seeding have earned a first round bye, as well as a second round home- field advantage. The Tar Heels won on penalties by a score of 3:2, after the game finished regulation and two overtimes tied at 0:0.
The match was exciting, but more so from tension due to the game’s importance than from the gameplay itself. Both teams made themselves extremely difficult to break down and while each team had chances, a draw was in the end a fair result given the quality of said chances. The Heels had the territorial and tactical advantage, but never capitalized in 110 minutes. A tight, tense match almost certainly favored the Retrievers, as the Tar Heel attack has been inconsistent at times this season while the defense was rock solid, meaning that UMBC were able to nullify some of the Heel’s attacking threat whilst facing a defense that would have been hard to crack no matter what.
The difference in the territorial side of the game came from each team’s MO in attack. The Tar Heels varied their attacks widely throughout, meaning that the UMBC defense never knew to expect a long ball to the wings, a slow passing move from the back, or a dribbling drive for a shot. The Retrievers, however, made most of their offense off of short- lived dribbles and long balls into the box, as any passing move (and just about any dribble move) was expeditiously quashed by the Tar Heel defense.
The few chances in the game mostly fell to the Heels, with Rob Lovejoy getting past the UMBC back line off of a long ball right off the bat and feeding Andy Craven, who was unable to get a shot off. In the 24th Lovejoy was at it again, but this time his cross was off the mark, but decidedly to the Tar Heels’ advantage. The cross found Mikey Lopez outside the box, and his long shot was spilled right in front of Andy Craven, who tried to chip the keeper at point blank range but failed, sending his shot over the bar.
It took 30 minutes for the Retrievers to make a decent chance, as they managed to get a super long cross into the box and onto a UMBC head, though the shot was tame and provided no real challenge for Wonderkeeper Scott Goodwin. The play went stale after this point for the rest of the half, only punctuated by a series of fruitless UNC corners before half time.
After the half Danny Garcia was brought down in the box after knocking the ball past his defender, but the resulting no- call was a solid decision by the official. The rest of the half saw just three good opportunities for either team. Garcia’s through ball fed McCrary in the UMBC box, but McCrary’s cross was shot against the keeper by Andy Craven, Alex Olofson got off a great shot outside the box only to see it palmed away, and UMBC managed to make a long free kick reach two Retriever heads, only for Scott Goodwin to snatch it away.
Overtime was fairly uneventful, as the Tar Heels had most of the ball but were unable to break UMBC down. The only real chance fell against the run of play to the Retrievers, whose last second corner was headed just over the top left corner.
After that, the game went to penalties, and Scott Goodwin showed us all why he’s captain. His calm and almost predatory demeanor in goal were breathtaking, and he made three spot kick saves out of five, an incredible return for any keeper. The composure he showed was outstanding, though credit goes to Cam Brown, Alex Walters, and Martin Murphy for putting away penalties for the Heels.
Next for the Heels is Fairleigh Dickinson at home next Sunday. Fairleigh were surprise winners over St. Louis, but their low seeding means that the game will be played at home. As always, you can follow UNC Men’s Soccer throughout their run in the College Cup here with KeepingItHeel.